For a true coffee connoisseur, now is a great time to be alive! The last decade or two has brought us a true transformation of coffee from a robust commodity to an exquisite specialty.
More than ever are we aware of that rich flavored drink in our cups, of the origin of the beans and the wellbeing and education of the farmers that grow it, year after year. They do not treat their coffee plants as a cash crop, but as a complex plant that needs special care to produce special beans. We understand the importance of the roasting process and we learned to love and respect small batch roasters that meticulously check the beans they get from the farmers and can give us a new nuance of a bean in each of their next batches. We learned to respect all coffee preparation methods, as each of them has the power of diversifying our taste for coffee.
Anze Miklavec, the creator of Goat Story, is passionate about the ethics and transparency of the whole coffee chain: “We at Goat Story, as a coffee device manufacturer, are super happy to see small batch roasters working closely with coffee farmers, educating them, paying them a fair price for their beans. And we’re happy to see that people who enjoy drinking coffee have developed a taste for specialty coffee, are willing to explore its different ways of preparation and have respect for the roasters.”
The specialty coffee industry as a whole has matured and many “third wave coffee” businesses have grown. Some of them beyond anything we could have imagined. We might have seen some of them as an inspiration, a role model, an important part of this friendly community. That is why the news of Nestlé taking majority stake in Blue Bottle was oh so shocking. Blue Bottle was, in our opinion, one of the largest and best specialty coffee operations, catering to hardcore coffee fans, with a clear focus on freshly roasted beans, including pour over coffee in their coffee shops and a clear and ethical sourcing of coffee. It was a true success story, growing from a single stand at a farmer’s market to becoming a huge player in the specialty coffee field that has grown way beyond a “coffee place”. Blue Bottle was a true coffee start-up that had been gathering capital from prominent (especially Silicone Valley) investors. But it was also clear that Blue Bottle was never shy about its aspire to expand.
On the other hand, you have Nestlé, a food giant that is hard to escape, as it controls a huge part of the world’s food business, coffee included. And it is moving into the more ethical and organic side of food, as their purchase of Blue Bottle was preceded by the purchase of Sweet Earth, a vegetarian food maker and Freshly, a health food maker before that.
The backlash after the news hit the coffee community was harsh, with loyal customers turning their backs on Blue Bottle. And while James, the founder of the company assured that nothing will change regarding their product and service, the community doesn’t trust Nestlé and their sometimes shady practice and mass produced coffee that was a target of criticism by Blue Bottle itself in the past. Their customers are now concerned that Blue Bottle will lose its edge under the Nestlé's umbrella and feel that the company sold out to big money.
It is a choice of investor that is difficult to understand, except from a financial point of view. Blue Bottle and Nestlé clearly stand on the opposite side of the spectrum. Miklavec comments, “while I don’t really know all the details of this deal, I do hope that James will manage to keep the high standards for coffee and service that he established in the 15 years of existence of Blue Bottle.” But that yummy cup of Blue Bottle is now, no matter how good, forever plagued with a sour aftertaste of instant coffee.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on the Blue Bottle deal with Nestlé